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International and Local Fried Chicken Chains Are on an Expansion Hype in London

London wing slinger Wingshack Co and Korean fried chicken chain Pelicana are both expanding this year, alongside Popeyes, Jollibee, and more

An absurd range of chicken wings and chicken wing burgers from Wing Shack Co
Wing Shack Co’s contribution to the fried chicken land grab
Wing Shack Co [Official Photo]

There will be bird

As the tectonic plates of London’s restaurant landscape shift to accommodate the economic impacts of Covid-19, one thing is becoming clear amid the haze: Fried chicken chains love expansion. 2,000-strong Korean chain Pelicana will arrive in Hammersmith on 14 April before expanding to Angel, Wimbledon, and Clapham, according to Big Hospitality; London’s Wing Shack Co will open five more sites this year, according to MCA Insight. This follows American juggernaut Popeyes announcing a U.K. debut, and Filipino fave Jollibee investing millions in its own push. Even Morley’s is going north of the Thames.

London’s best fried chicken restaurants, from the new to the high street institutions, are likely to remain unmoved. But the city’s restaurant market — landlords and would-be owners — at large is likely taking notice. Even though rent is both the biggest concern and the biggest existential threat to many of the city’s restaurants, new deals — especially from proven, high volume chains with a core product whose accessible, cheap popularity goes hand in hand with its ties to intensive farming and poor conditions at meatpacking plants. As fried chicken chains need and acquire more sites to expand, more fried chicken restaurants need more chicken. This dynamic also plays out at a more “independent level” — of restaurants who might have the means, attitude, or both to pay more for ingredients and staff, those with significant investment, cash reserves, or an existing estate are in a better position to take over sites left behind by their forerunners.

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